The Science behind Infrared Lasers

It’s not easy to take off adequate time for rest when you have a painful tendon injury, especially when you have a race or event approaching. How can you speed your body’s recovery process while easing pain? Cold laser therapy is an FDA-approved treatment for pain relief and speeding injury recovery that is gaining popularity, and is even being researched as a treatment for degenerative or traumatic central nervous system disorders. Lasers
do this by reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow to the injured area, and stimulating cell proliferation. Low-level lasers have been used in medical settings for over 30 years to start the healing process at any stage of the injury. Unlike X-rays and high-powered lasers, it isn’t damaging to tissues and thus is approved for personal use. Unlike thermal treatments, the goal of laser therapy is not to heat an area to improve circulation (low-level lasers actually cause no detectable temperature change), but rather to target the cells’ response to injury on a chemical level. The mechanisms aren’t fully understood, however many studies have proven the relationship between low-level lasers and certain chemical responses.
Low-level laser dosages on animal tissues in studies have increased ATP production and protein synthesis in cells, and displaced nitric oxide. (9) Nitric oxide in stressed or hypoxic cells can decrease cellular respiration by competing with oxygen at its binding site, but it is proposed that they are removed with photo-dissociation by red and near-infrared light. The oxygen consumption of tissues increases when exposed to low-level lasers, indicating increased activity. The activity of fibroblasts, which produce collagen, and macrophages, which digest damaged cell fragments, are thus increased. Studies done on arthritic patients, carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers, and injured athletes have also concluded that laser therapy causes a significant decrease in pain levels. (10,11) The mechanisms behind this are currently under research, but it may be due to increased blood flow to the injured area, or hyperpolarizing nerves so that they don’t fire pain responses as often. For shallow injuries, it is best to provide treatment on the painful areas, but for deep injuries it is suggested to be more effective to apply laser therapy on acupuncture points. (12)

By Fixt Intern Jodie Davis
9 Huang, Ying-Ying et al. “Biphasic Dose Response in Low Level Lightherapy.” Dose-Response 7.4 (2009): 358–383. CrossRef. Web.

10 Shooshtari, AM. “Result Filters.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 June 2008. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

11 Branco, Kenneth. “The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.” Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Clinical Outcome After Low-Level Laser Acupuncture, Microamps Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, and Other Alternative Therapies–An Open Protocol Study. Mary Ann Libert, Inc., 24 Sept. 2007. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

12 Morimoto, Yusuke, Akiyoshi Saito, and Yasuaki Tokuhashi. “Low Level Laser Therapy for Sports Injuries.” Laser Therapy 22.1 (2013): 17–20. PMC. Web. 8 Apr. 2016